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Here’s the challenge: A full day of panels discussing “Programmatic Trading” with intense topics such as blockchain, compensation for ad fraud, and other detailed discussions.

Um…this has the potential to tap out the boring meter.

Enter Lynn Lester, a Scottish dynamo with a sense for drama and daring. The Drum, a global media platform has offered “Programmatic Punch” events all over the world. But for this first-time event in NYC, she needed to “go big” and make sure this event was a home run.

Just read the copy which is infused with boxing metaphors:

What is Programmatic Punch?

As a famous boxer once said ‘Everyone has a plan until they get a punch in the face.’
Well, a combination of innovation and regulation in ad-tech could – metaphorically speaking- add up to such a punch.

The Drum’s Programmatic Punch is designed to help you duck and dive to ensure you exploit the opportunities of this new age, as opposed to succumbing to its threats.

The event aims to serve as a wake-up call about the revolution this industry is going through.

Doesn’t sound too boring.

As she was planning out the day, she focused on how the audience should feel. The Drum brand is known for its energy and fun – so she brainstormed how she could make the event fun and energizing even though they were debating dry, serious topics.

So she brainstormed everything about boxing and asked, “How can we make this work?”

  • Ask you walk in, you are greeted with posters of boxing matches with the topic and panelists.
  • At the far end of the room, you see a boxing ring (yep, that’s right!) with chairs on three sides of the boxing ring.
  • The lighting is dark with spotlights showcasing the posters and ring.
  • Loud “fight music” is playing (think Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” and Black Eyed Peas “Pump It”)

And you instantly knew this wasn’t going to be a boring corporate panel.

Just minutes before the fight was to begin (ahem, the event was to begin), the referee (aka emcee) stepped into the ring while the microphone dropped down from the ceiling. Lynn then immediately got them participating with a quiz about Scottish terms related to boxing. The prize? A bottle of whiskey! (At 9am, no less!)

So then the Voice of God announced the first fight “Welcome to the ring from the red corner…” and the moderator and speakers would come out of their corners “fighting.” Some even wore boxing gloves! Simultaneously, a “sign man” walked around the ring with a “one” sign that clearly indicated that this was “round one.” When the panel was ready to begin, the bell sounded – and when it was over, the bell signaled the end of round 1! Short break, and then they were on to round 2!

At the end of the day, the Drum offered Scottish treats and a dram of whiskey (after all, they were founded in Dublin!).

How creative and exciting is that? So you might be wondering:

  • How much did the speakers know about this? Lynn says they didn’t know much. They knew that they were going to be in a boxing ring on high chairs. And they were encouraged to use words related to boxing. But since this was a first-time thing, Lynn was sensitive to not push the envelope too far. When I mentioned the idea of having the panelists come out in bathrobes, she said, “Yes, we thought of that, but thought that might be too gimmicky for our first time. We hadn’t met many of these people before and we didn’t want to make them feel uncomfortable.”
  • What about safety? How did the panelists get into the ring? Lynn was very attentive to the health and safety of all in the room. So there were stairs on each side of the ring and people to pull the ropes up and to help the panelists enter the ring.
  • How many people were there? Around 200 with people flowing in and out throughout the day. The biggest surprise was that “tons of people stayed to talk” – which always a positive sign to hosting a great day!
  • The key to success? Lynn said that she brainstormed all the possibilities using the boxing theme and wove it into the marketing materials. And then took the physical elements (five senses) and asked, “How can we make that work? What would wow the audience? Create a sense of curiosity and fun?”

I’d say she did a masterful job of creating lively and informative panel discussions with an otherwise dry topic. Bravo Lynn and The Drum!


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KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF | Master, professional panel moderator and high stakes meeting facilitator is on a quest to make all panel discussions lively and informative. Check out her free 7-part video series on how to moderate a panel and other resources to help you organize, moderate, or be a panel member.


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Kristin ArnoldKristin Arnold
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.
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